MARTY RUSSELL: Make a red heart purchase or else



I don’t have to tell all you Y chromosome types out there that Valentine’s Day is Friday. It’s hard to forget when everywhere you turn you see red hearts. Red heart-shaped balloons, red heart-shaped boxes of candies, red heart-shaped cards, red heart-imprinted boxer shorts, etc. And you can’t turn on the TV without seeing an ad for florists offering the best deals on flowers and jewelers reminding you that if you don’t fork over big bucks for a ring or a necklace this Valentine’s Day then you’re a cold-hearted scumbag and perhaps even a communist.

That’s because Valentine’s Day has become one of the most commercial of all our manufactured holidays. It plays off that old trick that all mothers learn for controlling their children – guilt. If you don’t do this for me, then you obviously don’t love me.

I tried to explain this to my wife the other day. Why on Earth, I asked her, would someone want to give flowers in the middle of winter? Sure it’s exotic, like crawfish and oysters out of season, but that’s what also makes them so expensive. And think of the human toll. There are kids, some maybe only 5 years old, slaving away in the rose mines down in Bolivia and Columbia working 20 hours a day watering and weeding and picking the bugs off for what? So they can cut them down, pack them into boxes, put them into refrigerated containers and fly them thousands of miles so you can have a flower that will sit in a vase for a few days and then wilt and die.

And jewelry, I told her. It’s just rocks. Sure they’re pretty and colorful after they’ve been cut and polished, but they start out as just rocks. And the whole notion that they’re expensive and sought-after because they’re rare is just hype. The cartels keep supplies low to drive prices up. There are whole planets out there made of diamonds, so the whole it’s-worth-it-because-it’s-rare argument doesn’t hold up.

And then there’s the candy, I told the wife, most of it chocolate. Chocolate is made from the leaves of the cacao plant, which only grows in tropical areas such as South America, so again it’s exploiting child labor to produce it. When those poor children finish their 20-hour shifts in the rose mines they probably are sent to pick cacao leaves for a few hours until the next shift begins.

And sweets aren’t good for you. Think of all that sugar and all those calories. Don’t you realize, I asked the wife, that there’s an epidemic of diabetes and obesity in this country that can be traced directly back to overeating and too much sugar consumption? I’m doing you, and those poor South American children, a favor, I told her, by not participating in the marketing madness that is Valentine’s Day.

Next week’s column: What it’s like to spend a week in a hospital bed.

Marty Russell writes a Wednesday column for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at

Click video to hear audio